2016-10-20 / Letters

Hygienist encourages flouridation support

To the editor:

As president of the Maine Dental Hygienists’ Association and as a licensed dental hygienist in a family dental practice, I understand the benefits of preventive oral health care. I have more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, which includes working in private practice, public health settings and as an educator. Suffice it to say, I’ve seen just about everything. But one thing I’ve not seen before is the unprecedented effort now underway to remove community water fluoridation from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, servicing the towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel and portions of Biddeford and York. This effort, which is being led by the district’s superintendent, would impact anywhere from 28,000 to more than 75,000 residents. On behalf of the Maine Dental Hygienists’ Association, which represents more than 1,300 registered dental hygienists in Maine, I am writing to encourage voters in the communities served by the district to vote in favor of continuing to fluoridate its water at optimum levels.

Fluoridating at optimum levels to reduce tooth decay is supported by a large number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, Health and Human Services released its recommendation for the optimal fluoride level in drinking water to prevent tooth decay. The current recommendation is for a single level of 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, which is only slightly more than what is found naturally in the water supply.

Fluoridation of drinking water has been identified by the CDC as one of the top 10 public health achievements in the United States. For nearly 70 years, the public has benefited from improved overall dental health thanks to the addition of fluoride to the public water system. To take just one example, the CDC has concluded that school children in communities with water fluoridation have fewer decayed teeth compared to those who don’t live in fluoridated communities.

Opponents of fluoridation have suggested topical application of fluoride through toothpastes and rinses is sufficient to reduce tooth decay rates. But the experts disagree: “While additional sources of fluoride are more widely used than they were in 1962, the need for community water fluoridation still continues,” according to U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak. “Community water fluoridation is effective, inexpensive and does not depend on access or availability of professional services.”

Maine has led the country when it comes to innovative solutions to improving the delivery of preventive oral health services. Abandoning fluoridation would be a mistake for our state and a huge step back for our oral health. On behalf of the Maine Dental Hygienists’ Association, I again encourage voters who are customers of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, to vote “yes” to continue community water fluoridation.

The Maine Dental Hygienists’ Association can be reached for questions or comments at mainedha@gmail.com.

Kellie Stanhope, president Maine Dental Hygienists’ Association

Return to top